Yesterday, I attended a luncheon lecture and the topic was the Canine Companions for Independence and it was fascinating. Especially being the owner of a dog who, at age 13, has yet to distinguish between “sit” and “speak”. There were three Yellow Labs at the lunch, two were still youngsters, less than two years old, and the other, Mahler, was eight. He’d been the companion of a woman since he was two. She’s confined to a wheelchair much of the time, and her dog has helped her become independent.
They live with a “raiser” until they are almost two, and then they return to CCI for some final training. My first question was trying to understand how someone could raise a puppy and then give it away. One of the volunteers (and they are all volunteers) explained to me that it was like raising a child and then sending him off into the world to do a job. One of the people at the lunch was raising his 11th puppy for the program.
After the training is complete, the dogs are matched with their people and they complete two intensive weeks of training. At the end of this time, the dogs know at least 50 commands, if not more, and are socialized to all situations. The dogs graduate from the program, the puppy’s family says good-bye and the new companion takes over.
The woman who had Mahler told us stories of the things he could do. When she goes grocery shopping in her specialized vehicle, the dog goes with her. When they get home, he takes the bags of groceries out of the car and into the house and puts them on the counter. He can help with the laundry, although he can’t separate the lights and darks, and he pulls her in her wheelchair. The most amazing thing was watching her drop a dime on the carpet and seeing Mahler pick it up and put it in her hand.
For more information on this amazing group, which doesn’t charge the “end-user” a penny, please check out their website. I almost wish that I had taken Connor with me, so he could have seen these great dogs and maybe gotten a little inspiration.